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Detecting cellphone use in car accidents

West Virginia drivers who cause an accident because they were using a cellphone may be easier to identify if law enforcement adopts a device called the textalyzer. Fatal motor vehicle accidents are on the rise, and in 2016, around 40,000 people died in traffic accidents. Experts believe that phone distractions are partly to blame, but it can be difficult to identify this as the cause of an accident. Drivers may not be forthcoming about the reason for the accident, and law enforcement might not be permitted to examine phones without a warrant.

This was the case for the founder of an advocacy group that has helped develop the textalyzer. His 19-year-old son died in an accident in which the driver was texting, but the driver told police afterward that he had dozed off at the wheel. It was six months later that the father was able to get a subpoena for the driver's phone records and found he had been texting at the time of the accident.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the device, but one engineer says that it will only obtain information about what a driver was doing in the last few moments and will not download content. Several states are already considering its use.

People who are seriously injured in a car crash caused by the negligence of another driver may wonder what recourse they have if they are offered too little in compensation. They might think that they cannot prevail in a civil lawsuit against the driver if there were no criminal charges file, but this is the case, as the burden of proof on the plaintiff in a personal injury action is lower than that on a prosecutor in a criminal case.

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